He wants to feel lighter, to feel brighter, but the room darkens, and he can feel a storm creeping in.

He was twelve when the first one rolled through. He didn’t see it coming. One day the skies were blue and the next the clouds were low and dense, and the next, the wind was up and it was pouring rain.

It would be years before Henry learned to think of those dark times as storms, to believe that they would pass, if he could simply hold on long enough.

His parents meant well, of course, but they always told him things like Cheer up, or It will get better, or worse, It’s not that bad, which is easy to say when you’ve never had a day of rain. Henry’s oldest brother, David, is a doctor, but he still doesn’t understand. His sister, Muriel, says she does, that all artists suffer through their storms, before offering him a pill from the mint container she keeps in her purse. Her little pink umbrellas, she calls them, playing on his metaphor; as if it’s just a clever turn of phrase and not the only way Henry can try to make them understand what it’s like inside his head.

It is just a storm, he thinks again, even as he pulls away from the scene, makes some excuse about going to find air. The party is too warm, and he wants to be outside, wants to go onto the roof and look up and see there is no bad weather, only stars, but of course, there are no stars, not in SoHo.

He makes it halfway down the hall before he stops, remembering the show, the sight of Robbie in the rain, and shivers, deciding to go down instead of up, deciding to go home.

And he’s almost to the door when she catches his hand. The girl with ivy curling over her skin. The one who painted him gold.

“It’s you,” she says.

“It’s you,” he says.

She reaches out and wipes a fleck of gold from Henry’s cheek, and the contact is like static shock, a spark of energy where skin meets skin.

“Don’t go,” she says, and he’s still trying to think of what to say next when she pulls him close, and he kisses her, quick, searching, breaks off when he hears her gasp.

“Sorry,” he says, the word automatic, like please, like thank you, like I’m fine.

But she reaches up and grabs a handful of his curls.

“What for?” she asks, drawing his mouth back to hers.

“Are you sure?” he murmurs, even though he knows what she will say, because he’s already seen the light in her eyes, the pale clouds sweeping through her vision. “Is this what you want?”

He wants the truth—but there is no truth for him, not anymore, and the girl just smiles, and draws him back against the nearest door.

“This,” she says, “is exactly what I want.”

And then they are in one of the bedrooms, the door clicking shut and blotting out the noises of the party beyond the wall, and her mouth is on his, and he cannot see her eyes now in the dark, so it’s easy to believe that this is real.

And for a while, Henry disappears.

New York City

March 12, 2014


Addie makes her way uptown, reading The Odyssey by streetlight. It’s been a while since she read anything in Greek, but the poetic cadence of the epic poem draws her back into the stride of the old language, and by the time the Baxter comes into sight, she is half-lost in the image of the ship at sea, looking forward to a glass of wine and a hot bath.

And destined for neither.

Her timing is either very good, or very bad, depending on how you look at it, because Addie rounds the corner onto Fifty-sixth just as a black sedan pulls up in front of the Baxter and James St. Clair steps out onto the curb. He’s back from his filming, tan and seemingly happy, wearing a pair of sunglasses despite the fact it’s after dark. Addie slows, and stops, hovers across the street as the doorman helps him unload and carry his bags inside.

“Shit,” she mutters under her breath as her night dissolves. No bubble baths, no bottles of merlot.

She sighs and retreats to the intersection, trying to decide what to do next.

To her left, Central Park unravels like a dark green cloth in the center of the city.

To her right, Manhattan rises in jagged lines, block after block of crowded buildings from Midtown down to the Financial District.

She goes right, making her way down toward the East Village.

Her stomach begins to growl, and on Second, she catches sight of dinner. A young man on a bicycle dismounts on the curb, unpacks an order from the zippered case behind the seat, and jogs the plastic bag up to the building. Addie drifts up to the bike and reaches in. It’s Chinese, she guesses, going by the size and shape of the containers, the paper edges folded and bound with thin metal handles. She plucks out a carton, and a pair of disposable chopsticks, and slips away before the man at the door has even paid.

There was a time she felt guilty about stealing.

But the guilt, like so many things, has worn away, and even though the hunger can’t kill her, it still hurts as though it will.

Addie makes her way toward Avenue C, scooping lo mein into her mouth as her legs carry her through the Village to a brick building with a green door. She dumps the empty carton in a trash can on the corner and reaches the building entrance just as a man is coming out. She smiles at him, and he smiles back and holds the door.

Inside, she climbs four flights of narrow steps to a steel door at the top, reaches up, and feels along the dusty frame for the small silver key, discovered last fall, when she and a lover stumbled home, the two a tangle of limbs on the stairs. Sam’s lips pressed beneath her jaw, paint-streaked fingers sliding beneath the waistband of her jeans.

It was, for Sam, a rare impulsive moment.

It was, for Addie, the second month of an affair.

A passionate affair, to be sure, but only because time is a luxury she can’t afford. Sure, she dreams of sleepy mornings over coffee, legs draped across a lap, inside jokes and easy laughter, but those comforts come with the knowing. There can be no slow build, no quiet lust, intimacy fostered over days, weeks, months. Not for them. So she longs for the mornings, but she settles for the nights, and if it cannot be love, well, then, at least it is not lonely.

Her fingers close around the key, the metal scraping softly as she drags it from its hiding spot. It takes three tries in the rusted old lock, just like it did that first night, but then the door swings open, and she steps out onto the building’s roof. A breeze kicks up, and she shoves her hands in the pocket of her leather jacket as she crosses the roof.

It’s empty, save for a trio of lawn chairs, each of them imperfect in its own way—seats warped, stuck in different poses of recline, one arm hanging at a broken angle. A stained cooler sits nearby, and a string of fairy lights hangs between laundry posts, transforming the roof into a shabby, weather-worn oasis.

It’s quiet up here—not silent, that is a thing she’s yet to find in a city, a thing she is beginning to think lost amid the weeds of the old world—but as quiet as it gets in this part of Manhattan. And yet, it is not the same kind of quiet that stifled her at James’s place, not the empty, internal quiet of places too big for one. It is a living quiet, full of distant shouts and car horns and stereo bass reduced to an ambient static.

A low brick wall surrounds the roof, and Addie lets herself lean forward against it, resting her elbows and looking out until the building falls away, and all she can see is the lights of Manhattan, tracing patterns against the vast and starless sky.